February 9, 2011
Vol: 18 No: 06

News

Fear factor

by: Cydney Gillis , Staff Reporter

What's the real reason Jackson Place residents oppose a crisis center?

The Downtown Emergency Service Center could open a county-funded crisis center as early as this summer in two adjoining buildings that currently stand off Rainier Avenue South in the Central District. Police could bring homeless people to the facility for mental or substance abuse treatment and housing placement. Photo by Katia Roberts

Photo by: Katia Roberts , Contributing Photographer

Kwame Amoateng (pictured) and other neighbors with the Jackson Place Alliance for Equity have hired attorney Peter Eglick to fight the center. Photos by Cydney Gillis

Photo by: Cydney Gillis , Staff Reporter

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A row of earth-toned townhomes lines the south side of Lane Street where crack houses once stood. Next door to them is an abandoned building that once served as a brothel.

Prostitutes have moved on and new homes have gone up, and now residents of the Central District neighborhood known as Jackson Place are bracing for a new neighbor.

King County plans to open a 46-bed crisis diversion center in two adjoining office buildings at the corner of Lane and 16th Avenue South. It’s a place for police officers to bring a suicidal person or a homeless person whose only offense is trying to sleep on a bus. They could stay up to two weeks and get help finding housing, treatment and substance abuse services.

But residents of Jackson Place say it’s no place for a crisis diversion center. They see the center as a kind of jail and worry those who stay there will endanger the neighbors.

“It just seems really hard to rationalize that you consider it’s actually completely safe to stick this right across the street from families with kids,” Jackson Place resident Steve Hathaway said.

Hathaway was one of the more than 100 people who showed up last month at an emotional community meeting at Giddens School. The dozen who spoke expressed fear for their families. Only one person, a mental health advocate, spoke in the project’s favor.

Graydon Andrus, director of clinical programs for the Downtown Emergency Service Center, the nonprofit that King County has selected to operate the facility, said opponents of the project have got it wrong. DESC does not plan to admit anyone to its Crisis Solution Center who has committed a violent crime or has a history of violence.

“They’re not inmates or anything like inmates,” Andrus said. “They’re people who have some needs that are temporary and can be solved in many cases by the kinds of services that we’re talking about here.”

Modeled after a crisis center in Pierce County that provides triage, the center will take in people who have committed minor misdemeanors, said Amnon Shoenfeld , director of King County’s Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division. Their crimes could include possessing alcohol in a park, disorderly conduct, failure to obey an officer, trespassing and theft under $50.

Shoenfeld said he expects misdemeanor offenders to comprise only about 30 percent of those the Seattle crisis center accepts. The rest will be people with mental illness or substance abuse problems. Police and mental health professionals have traditionally taken people with such issues to jail or an emergency room not because they committed a crime, but because there was nowhere else to take them to get help.

The Crisis Solutions Center would offer an alternative to expensive and unwarranted stints in the emergency room or jail.

Stays at the center will be voluntary,

Shoenfeld said, meaning people will not be locked up inside. If they do leave, DESC says its staff would follow them and call the police if need be. People who do commit a crime and refuse to go to the center would go to jail.

That doesn’t satisfy Kwame Amoateng and a new neighborhood group called the Jackson Place Alliance for Equity, which formed to fight the crisis center after the first community meeting on Nov. 9, 2010.

Amoateng owns one of the townhomes on Lane Street. He is a civil rights attorney and has spent his entire career representing underprivileged people. This is different, Amoateng said: Putting the crisis center at Lane and Sixteenth isn’t legal. The area just off Rainier Avenue South is zoned for commercial use. He believes the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has classified the facility as a hospital and not a jail to expedite the permit.

A jail use would require a conditional use permit. To get one, DESC would need to conduct an environmental review and take public comment.

That’s all the Jackson Place Alliance ultimately wants, Amoateng said

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Comments

Where is the due diligence is this story? It's nothing but regurgitation opinions without having ANY facts to back it up. TheMIDD 10b Final Strategy Report 062509 put out by King County outlines the nature of this facility http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/MHSA/MIDDPlan/MIDDCommittees/Crisis Diversion Planning Archives.aspx. Pages 4 and 5 list in detail what medical services the Crisis Solutions Center will not be providing - these are the most basic forms of care and treatment any REAL hospital would provide to their patients. Pages 6 and 22 state that individuals who are brought to the facility by police arrest will be held up to 48 hours by a Police hold. As stated by Amnon Shoenfeld , director of King County

concerned S Lane St resident | submitted on 02/11/2011, 1:04pm

Bill, I am not sure why I am surprised by your comment, but I am. It is quotes like yours that will alienate neighbors further. Once again I find you more destructive than constructive and I am very concerned to know that you are heading the GNA.

Ryan | submitted on 02/11/2011, 1:08pm

I'd be curious to know what kind of deal DESC struck with Bill B. In what world would the guy who mercilessly attacked the Goodwill Project because of

Sweller | submitted on 02/11/2011, 1:16pm

FINALLY, someone telling it like it is...http://www.nwasianweekly.com/2011/03/community-wary-of-the-changes-coming-to-jackson-place-says-could-be-less-safe/

concerned S Lane St resident | submitted on 03/04/2011, 2:15pm


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